Kuhlman Cellars Blog
It’s hard to believe it has been seven years since we first opened our doors to welcome guests to the Estate. What a journey!
Some of you may recall the early days - back when the vineyards were not yet planted, or when the Barrel room was the only structure on the property. How we started out with an ideal of building the best boutique winery in the Hill Country through exceptional fine wine coupled with exquisite hospitality. Today, Kuhlman Cellars is a welcoming place to slow down and savor an afternoon away.
We acquired the Estate property in 2013 when it was just a coastal grass field. And we got to work. Drilling a well, installing a fence, getting electricity as well as an entrance from the highway. Vineyards were put in with both irrigation as well as the physical trellising, followed by planting vines in 2015, 2016 and 2018. White. Rosé. Red. We are wine-growers. Tending the land in addition to growing the best boutique winery in the Texas Hill Country
Fine wine takes time. Building an Estate community does as well! Things evolve when raising a community. We’ve had guests spend their first date at the Estate to be followed by engagements and then visits after their wedding. We’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries, welcomed new babies to the family. And we’ve also mourned the loss of loved ones.
Reflecting on things, one of the most remarkable parts of creating our Kuhlman community is the friendships and memories. The FEB2021 ice storm comes to mind, but also getting notification of our Estate White winning medallions in the Concours d Lyon International Wine Competition. Our little patch of heaven, along with our team, grow wonderfully beautiful fruit which is transformed into exceptional wine.
We appreciate all who have joined our journey and look forward to welcoming new smiling faces as we go into the future!
As of October 2021, seven years into being open, we have not yet released an Estate Red wine. We have the 2019 vintage Estate Red in the bottle and can’t wait to share it, but it is not yet ready. As with many things in the wine business - it takes time. Patience.
Thank you for growing with us. Thank you for celebrating - the big and small - with us. We wouldn’t be here without our amazing team - and that includes our guests, our friends, our community. Vina Vita!
First things first, let’s look at definitions.
What is “vintage” and what does it mean?
When a year is listed on a wine label – for example, 2017 Marl, “2017” is the vintage year. The vintage year listed on a bottle denotes the wine within that bottle was made from grapes harvested in that specific year. In our example, the vintage year is 2017. In the United States, a wine must be at least 95% from a single year in order to be labeled with a vintage year.
A “non-vintage” wine is made by blending grapes from two or more harvest years. The newest releases of Calcaria and Hensell are non-vintage wines. Our newest release of Calcaria is a refreshing blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Trebbiano, Viognier and Albarino grapes. Familiar notes of ripe pear and honeysuckle are enhanced by delightful hints of papaya and white peach. Our newest Hensell is a blend of Cinsaut, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre. A classic, delicate Provence style rosé, this wine is reminiscent of fresh summer strawberries and cream.
So, does vintage year have anything to do with quality?
Great question! The answer is “yes and no”. Look, we all have good days and challenging days, right? Well, vineyards can have good and bad years. Depending on what happens in the vineyard in any given year, we could have a range of possible outcomes impacting quantity and quality of our fruit. In Texas, the biggest issue isn’t quality - it is Quantity.
A great vintage in Texas is when we actually harvest fruit. Freeze. Hail. Hurricanes. Drought. We have all sorts of weather related calamities waiting to destroy our fruit!
The “good vs. bad vintage” analysis is mostly dependent on weather - something we can’t control. In Texas, we often see wild fluctuations in the quantity of fruit. For example, if a vineyard is hit by hail, we might lose 60% or more of the crop im 5 minutes/ If we have a late spring frost, we can lose 100% of the crop before the vines even gets started. Alternatively, if we have ideal growing weather with ample rain, we might see excess fruit. Historically, we have not had “excess” fruit, but rather we have seen weather events reduce our crop yield. For example, in 2013, our first full commercial year, we lost 90% of our fruit to late spring frosts. More recently, we lost 50% of our fruit to a combination of frost and hail in 2020!
It can be very challenging to deal with high fluctuations in our fruit quantity. One way to smooth out quantity variations is to share of the “excess” fruit from one year with a “shortage” crop from another. We did this in 2020 in response to severe winter issues reducing our Texas High Plains crop. We simply held onto some of our awesome 2019 wines to support our lower volume 2020. This is where “balanced wine” shines through.
The Champagne houses in France (full disclosure: Champagne is my #1 go-to wine, closely followed by Kuhlman Cellars Hensell) utilize blending wines from different years to create non-vintage wines that express the “house style”. Where a single vintage can tell a story of a particular year in the life of a winery, a non-vintage wine can tell a story of life in a particular winery. At Kuhlman Cellars, we aim to provide the best and most balanced wines Texas has to offer every year – even if the wine represents more than one vintage year!
Beautiful Spring Color Awaits Your Visit!
The Texas Bluebonnets loved the snowpacalypse because the snow acted as a great insulator. The leaves, shaped like the bonnets pioneer women wore, peeked out of their icy covers awaiting sunshine and temperatures in the 70’s. At Kuhlman Cellars they will greet you at our entrance and in the parking area along with some late blooming daffodils. They form a blue carpet on the south side of the wine garden beneath the pink peach and white plum blossoms. Look closely for purple-bonnets and you might even spy a red or white bonnet.
Soon the red Indian Paintbrush will burst forth, followed by yellow coreopsis. Red poppies are popping out, and should be at their peak in late March and April. Take a walk and see how many different colors and color combinations you can find.
Return frequently to witness the sequential blooms of delphiniums, blanket flowers, daisies, Mexican Hat, Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia, Butterfly Bush, etc that are host and food plants for butterflies. Sit near the fountain and relax to its musical splashing that sends droplets out for the pollinators.
Thanksgiving looks a little different in 2020. Covid-19 caused a collective upheaval in our lives and continues to pose a threat. It is sometimes difficult to remember just exactly what we are thankful for this year; a year presenting challenges for all.
BUT… Thanksgiving is about giving thanks! It is a time to acknowledge the silver linings in the dark clouds of the past nine months.
While there have been difficulties, we feel blessed. Most importantly, our team has remained healthy and safe. Many of our staff members pulled double-duty and discovered new skills in other areas of the winery. This year’s Estate vintage is exciting for many reasons, but the greatest is all members of the Kuhlman team contributed to our Estate harvest this year – a true team effort! Through Virtual Tastings and Facebook Live, we learned new ways to maintain and build community with our guests. And, we were finally able to reopen and see your smiling eyes, even if we could not see the smiles behind your masks.
This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for our health. We are thankful for our amazing, hard-working staff. We are thankful for the opportunities coming from adversity. We are thankful for our community. We are thankful for our wonderfully supportive Vina Vita club members. And, of course, we are thankful for great wine!
We wanted to make our 2020 Thanksgiving bundle something to really celebrate this year. So, we turned to the cellar for some popular, limited supply, library wines. When you look for wines complimenting your Thanksgiving favorites, the key is versatility. You want wines pairing well with a variety of foods, so make sure you have plenty on hand!
Greet your guests with our 2019 Hensell (or pour yourself a glass while you prepare the feast – we won’t tell.) This delicate Provence-style Rosé is a perfect pre-dinner drink on its own but also pairs nicely with your favorite appetizers. For the main meal, you will want to serve both a white and a red wine. Our 2018 Estate Roussanne is both bright and complex at the same time. This wine has lovely acidity with herbal notes on the nose and flavors of pear and citrus in the mouth. The 2017 Sangiovese is a perfect accompaniment due to its beautiful structure, not overly oaky or tannic, and sharp acidity. Thanksgiving meals are usually heavy enough on its own, so it is best to keep the wines refreshing.
Thank you for being part of our Kuhlman Cellars community! We wish you all a happy Thanksgiving and a delicious Thanksgiving meal!
The Concours International de Lyon wine competition announced earlier this week Kuhlman Cellars won two Gold Medals and three Silver Medals!
We are obviously honored to win these medals; however, these medals are significant, not just because they are Gold and Silver, but also because of the competition itself.
Concours de Lyon is one of the largest wine competitions in France. Most of the entries come from France, though wineries around the world enter, with over 6,000 wines entered for this competition. No more than one third of the entries earn medals, making it one of the most competitive wine competitions. French wines, grapes and winemakers (Vignerons) are the focus and soul of the competition. We aren’t just competing against the entries of the year, but generations of experience growing grapes in their ancestral homelands as well as generations of winemaking experience.
The winning wines:
Gold Medal Winners:
2018 Estate Kuhlmanation White: A beautiful blend of Marsanne and Roussanne grown right on the Estate in Stonewall, Texas. We dug the holes, planted the vines and grew these vines since 2015. This is our second vintage and the wine perfectly captures the fresh, lively, brilliant ideals we envision for our white wine program.
2018 Texas High Plains Viognier: 2018 saw perfect ripeness in the grapes allowing for nearly ideal varietal characteristics to blossom! Ripe, rich, structured fruit grown for us by our vineyard partners, Bingham Family Vineyards.
Silver Medal Winners:
2016 Reserve Merlot: Grown by Flache Vineyards in Brownfield, our 2016 Reserve Merlot is our first reserve bottling. It spent a total of 30 months in French oak barrels, providing sufficient time to fully express the beautiful old world style of the best Merlot in the world.
2017 Marl: A new wine named after the clay and limestone soil of the estate (and found in Bordeaux), the 2017 vintage is a blend of Merlot and Petite Sirah - a blend never to be found in France, but certainly in Texas! The Merlot comes from the Flache vineyard while the Petite Sirah comes from Lahey vineyards.
2017 Sangiovese, Newsom Vineyards: 100% Sangiovese of the Brunello Clone. A special wine and our first ever Vineyard Designated! Neal Newsom, the legendary grower in Plains, Texas, tended the vines and grew this beautiful fruit for us showcasing classic varietal characteristics.
To further expand on the meaning of these awards:
Roussanne, one of our Kuhlmanation Estate White grapes, is thought to have originated in the Rhone Valley of France. It is one of only four white grapes permitted in Chateauneuf du Pape and is also found in the Northern Rhone. These areas are just south of Lyon and wineries and Vignerons have made wine from these grapes for generations. It is no exaggeration to say they have hundreds of years experience in growing, harvesting and making wine with these grapes. This same experience applies to other French grapes - Marsanne, Viognier, Merlot, and Petite Sirah.
We planted our estate Marsanne and Roussanne in 2015. The 2018 Vintage is only our second harvest.
We sent our wine to this year’s competition knowing it would be blind-tasted, side-by-side with all the other entries and judged by French wine professionals, many winemakers themselves, who know the best expressions of the grapes and wines.
We won Gold.
Great things are happening in quality Texas wine. There is no doubt: Texas Wine belongs on the world stage.
Here at Kuhlman we love being able to feature wines with fun pairings. While we all know and love Alluve, Barranca and Kankar; let's take a minute to talk about wines we consider “hidden gems” for our favorite Texas foods. Our cultural history is written in food & wine and Texas is no exception with its melting pot of flavors.
2017 Marl: This blend of Merlot and Petite Sirah has been winning hearts at the winery. Its velvety tannins and blackberry notes seem to surprise people who don’t care for merlot. The Petite Sirah adds a peppery note making this a great match for burgers on the grill or picnics with Roast beef or even Ruben sandwiches. We particularly love this with something that has red peppers in it like romesco sauce over potatoes. Try it with Texas style queso and tortilla chips. A red wine with chips and queso?! Yes!
2016 Gypsum: Gypsum is our hidden summer favorite. Lighter than Alluvé, this wine can be enjoyed chilled. (shhh, try it in sangria!) Gypsum’s light and cheerful nature makes it a wonderful surprise pairing for seafood and spicy Mexican, Tapas and Spanish foods. Try it with spicy Barbecue, beans, and potato salad on a hot summer night. This wine is the perfect way to introduce dry reds to people just beginning their wine journey, but it also has a complexity that lets those “experienced” wine drinkers enjoy as well.
2017 Zinfandel: There is a reason we put Texas on the label. This isn’t California Zin. This Zinfandel is light, fresh and peppery with hints of strawberry. Because this Zin is a lighter style, it is surprisingly versatile and loves big flavors in food. Try it with Lamb meatballs or Pulled pork with Barbecue sauce. We often pair this Zinfandel with game meats to complement their earthy nature. Try smoked duck breast for an extra treat. Zinfandel tends to be high in alcohol which can make spicy food seem spicier so be cautious with the hot peppers. But Indian flavors and Zinfandel are a perfect match, I also love it with chicken fried steak or Jaeger schnitzel. But the best… try it with barbecue potato chips.
As we, at Kuhlman Cellars, look out of our empty tasting room windows over a vibrant green vineyard and beautiful flowering grounds,
we are struck by how different the natural world is from our current world events. Things are quiet and we sit on opposite ends of the tasting room at our makeshift desks and dream of ideas to connect with you, our customers and community. Work still continues and the vines need tending. The beauty before us in our vines and flowers is a cycle that is never ending and always changing. The vines grow inches every day at a startling rate and the rain brings more lush green to our world view.
This time of challenge is a perfect opportunity to stop and view the world around us as an example of what is to come. Flowers will still bloom and grapes will still ripen. We will take time in anticipation of harvest and celebrate each other in a way that connects us to the world. Times are hard. We worry for your safety and health and look with hope to a time in the future when we can sit with you at our tables and enjoy the bounty that the vineyard cycle brings forth.
Now, in the midst of uncertainty, we cherish even more the opportunity to connect with you, our extended family. We developed virtual tastings, podcasts and Facebook Wine Time as a way to reassure all of us the harvest still comes and brighter days lie ahead. Life will follow nature if we let it and the cycle will continue.
Spring is a time to celebrate renewal and fresh beauty. It is a time to celebrate our Estate Vineyard with our spring club release, even though we can’t have an in-person pick up party. Take time to join us virtually and connect - we miss you! Two estate wines will be coming to you in this club shipment (unless you decide to customize.) These represent the heart of Kuhlman Cellars.
2019 Estate Roussanne
The third harvest of our Estate Roussanne gave us a wine attracting you with an “Or Blanc” (white gold) color and shows an intense nose of jasmine, honeysuckle, orange blossom, pear and lemon zest. You will not be disappointed as you sip this wine because it bursts with flavors of peaches and lychee with a touch of green mango. The well balanced and lingering acidity will make this wine a perfect accompaniment to ceviche, tapenade and tapas.
Roussanne can be challenging in the vineyard. We call it our “princess” and baby it to get the best, most flavorful Roussanne possible. Harvest comes when not just the sugar and acid are correct but the grapes pop with lemon curd flavor on the tongue. This always happens in the heat of the summer!
2019 Estate Rose
This delicate Rosé made from our Estate Carignan and Mourvédre will seduce you with a soft strawberry color and smooth wild violet with crushed strawberry aroma. This light and refreshing wine has a subtle acidity that will best be enjoyed on a hot Texas summer evening with tabbouleh or any picnic food - hopefully at one of our picnic tables at the Estate!
Fans of the 2017 Hensell will be ecstatic! This release of Hensell is lighter in color and true to classic Provence-style Rosé. Delicate in the nose with hibiscus, pink apple and lavender aromas but powerful on the palate with a perfectly balanced acidity. Flavors of ruby red grapefruit will pair magically with spicy Thai or Mediterranean style food.
Celebrating spring in your home with your community, even if only virtually, is important for all of us in times like these. This is a beautiful time to strengthen our relationships and deepen friendships, being grateful for the gifts we have. Enjoy time with your community to cook, garden and be out in nature. Celebrate this spring as a time to renew our bonds and appreciate the joy that is Food, Family and Friends.
With our five year anniversary upon us, Kuhlman Cellars has something special now we have not had before: history. While of course our history is in the making, we now have the gift of a place and entity transformed by time. Time takes our original story on a curvy road of changes, through both elated and bittersweet moments. Time transforms our story, as the former beginning and end morph into a completely different picture. The beginning seems to span more time than before while the end is somehow simultaneously where we wanted to be and yet not exactly as planned.
As we capture our history, we become able to share it. Our newest tasting, The Reserve Tasting and Tour, explores our history in physical form: through our vintages. The Reserve Tasting is a celebration of time. It is a way for us to share with you our history, our evolving vineyard, and our winemaking philosophy.
The Reserve Tasting is an intimate conversation with our winemaker Bénédicte Rhyne, who through the eyes of Kuhlman’s winemaking, takes you on a journey through our story. Together you travel through time, exploring the present moment with wine-in-progress (barrel/tank tastings) and our history with our library wines.
Opening each of the rare and special library bottles is exciting new territory. They are gifts to share. For Kuhlman Cellars, having a reserve library is not about bottles collecting dust but rather about sharing something special with our families and community. It is about experiencing wine and tasting the evolution. Each Reserve Tasting focuses on exploring a particular aspect of our vintage library. Bénédicte shares the story of each of these wines, what was happening with them at their birth, and then sharing in the experience of what they are now.
It is so reaffirming to know that our patience pays off--that the hard work keeps giving back to us years down the line.
The vintages of Kuhlman Cellars are our living history captured in a bottle. They charm and entrance us, and there is nothing better than sharing in our living history with the Kuhlman community.
As we approach our 5th birthday, we are excited to finally unveil two new red wines, years in the making.
We’ve learned our patience for the process because fine wine takes time. At Kuhlman, we don’t believe in bottling our reds a year after harvest. Fine red wine simply needs time to mature and reach it’s true potential. You can taste the difference in wines that haven’t been rushed. Currently, we take an average of 30 months from harvesting to release a bottle of red wine - that’s two and a half years! We also will never, ever “bottle Thursday, sell Friday”. Our reds get at least a few months if not upwards of a year of bottle aging prior to their release. Patience is the name of the game for fine wine!
Our two newest reds received this same patience and care in their development. Which is part of the reason we are so proud to offer them in the September Club Release:
Our Kuhlman proprietary blends are named after distinct geological features of Texas terroir. Marl is a soil structure of mixed of clay and limestone, which we have generous amounts of towards the eastern half of the Kuhlman Estate.Blocks 2, 3 and 5-- Marsanne, Agilanico and Carignan, respectfully, all contain the Marl soil, contributing to our ability to grow this fruit beautifully and capture its essence even in the extremes of Texas weather All else being equal, clay results in a “cooler” soil which tends to slow down ripening and helps keep acidity of the fruit. It also holds significantly more moisture - which on a wet year, can be challenging! 2019 certainly has shown this, as we’ve had about 50% more rain than a “normal” year.
Pomerol, Bordeaux and Piedmont, Italy also are known for their Marl terroir, and the amazing quality and blending in these wines regions help inspire our own old world blend, Marl.The new 2017 Marl is a beautiful Old World style red blend. It has bright red fruit notes with aromatics of plum and cassis. As with all of our blends, the grape composition will change from year to year. For 2017, Marl is a wonderful, rich blend of Merlot and Petite Sirah.
The 2016 Reserve Merlot is a landmark wine for Kuhlman Cellars. It is our first ever “Reserve” designate wine, made with great intention and care. Prior to bottling the regular 2016, Bénédicte sampled and tasted each barrel, selecting the very best to be set aside. We allowed these barrels to rest, reserved in the cellar, for an additional 12 months French Oak barrel aging. All told, the 2016 Reserve Merlot spent 30 months in French oak barrels developing mature aromas of dried cherries and violets. The extended aging also developed exquisite mouthfeel. We are very pleased with how the complex finish lingers and creates a layered experience/reflection which time, patience and intention bring. This is a wine to enjoy with rich, complex foods, or for a special occasion.
We are excited to share this Reserve wine with you. When we first considered the possibility of reserving part of the 2016 Merlot for special cellaring treatment, we were driven by creating a distinct and elegant wine. We expect you will be delighted when you open the bottle and experience it for yourself!
As we look further out on the horizon, there will be a steady release of new red wines. Of course, our favorites and anchors of our wine program such as Alluvé, Barranca and KanKar will continue their rich legacy
For Vina Vita wine club members, you have choice on each club shipment and you can always order more than your minimum quantity while enjoying your membership discount. Be sure to customize or add to your selections to fit your palette, and remember to try our new release wines. We want you to enjoy what you receive, try new wine adventures, and live Vina Vita!
Cheers to the Wine Life!
2018 Hensell Allocation!
Probably the most frequent question I’ve heard in the tasting room the last 5 weeks is “when will Hensell be released?!”
We understand. We’ve been anxiously waiting too! Great news though: 2018 Hensell is ready for release!
Our big question was how should we do this? Waiting till September for the next scheduled club release seems too far away. Especially since Hensell Rosé is one of the quintessential summer wines in Texas! So, we’ve decided to do something new and present a new club membership perk:
We are offering each club member the exclusive benefit of early-access to Hensell.
Each member has the opportunity (but not the obligation) to purchase between 3 and 12 bottles of Hensell! Simply log into your Kuhlman Cellars account, navigate to the Allocation section of your profile, confirm your bottle counts, add to your cart, and hit checkout. Simple!
You have until July 4th for the early-access Hensell pre-release. After that, it will be made available to general release in the Tasting Room.
But wait….there’s more exciting news!
We’ve also heard from our members who sometimes can’t make it to the winery. So, we are hitting the road this summer for a Hensell Roadshow! We will bring your allocation bottles to events held in major cities in late June!
If you’ve accepted the allocation, make plans to join us at one of the different events where we will sample Hensell and other Kuhlman Wines! Each location will also have a special Hensell food pairing which you can purchase to enjoy with a glass of Hensell. The best part is we will bring your Hensell to you (and any other wines you might want as well).
As always, be sure to bring friends! You can find the RSVP information here.
2018 Hensell Rosé
For the 2018 Hensell, we continue pursuing our goal of exquisite Provence styled dry, aromatic roses. We’ve also changed the fruit blend, with this year being hand harvested Grenache and Cinsault from our great partners at Farmhouse Vineyards blended with some of our Estate grown, hand harvested Carignan.
Hand harvesting provides the most gentle handling of the fruit to preserve the delicate nuances while also conveying the most winemaking control to Bénédicte, our winemaker. Having grown up in Provence, Bénédicte's rosés are true to style and beautifully transport us all to the south of France and the epicenter of rose in the world!
This wine will be a certain palate pleaser for anyone seeking a refreshing, crisp, aromatic easy drinking wine. Enjoy with salads, shrimp & grits, BLT’s, as well as BBQ, duck & sausage gumbo, and Tex-Mex. Or, simply enjoy on a porch swing, poolside lounge or an evening relaxing with friends.